Monument fire grows, Seneca fire largely contained

<I>Photo by Russ Lane, Unit Forester, Oregon Dept. of Forestry</I><BR>A spot fire in the Monument Complex ripped along a meadow at the historic JV Ranch headquarters Sunday, July 15. Two Oregon Department of Forestry engines responded. The ranch structures survived the flames.

MONUMENT - Several lightning-caused fires merged into one large fire over the weekend and have burned nearly 21,000 acres of Umatilla National Forest, Oregon Department of Forestry and BLM-protected lands about 15 miles north of Monument.

The fires were threatening some 245 structures, including homes in the rural area around Monument.

Fire officials reported that at least one building burned Saturday night, July 14, and others were reported to be run over by the fire Sunday. The complex increased dramatically in size Sunday, July 15, adding 11,000 acres

A spot fire touched off a meadow at the historic JV Ranch headquarters, threatening main buildings there. However, two ODF engines responded and were able to stave off the flames. Those buildings survived the blaze, but four or five other structures on the ranch were reported to have been damaged.

Fire officials have established "trigger points" to gauge whether homes or ranches in the area would need to be evacuated, but as of Monday there were no evacuation orders, according to the Department of Forestry.

Russ Lane, unit forester, said that ODF crews on Sunday night provided protection at structures through the night. They were assisted by members of local Grant County fire departments who turned out to help.

The complex - which includes the Red Hill, Lovlett Corral and Wall Creek Fires - is managed by the Blue Mountain Incident Management Team as the Monument Complex. By assigning an Incident Management Team, local initial attack resources can be released back to their local units and made available to fight newly reported fires.

The Blue Mountain Team, lead by Incident Commander Rob Batten, took over management of the Monument Complex Monday morning. The fire camp was being set up at the Monument School.

Approximately 160 personnel were dispatched to fight the fire. The effort included three hand crews, four helicopters and 20 fire engines.

A temporary flight restriction (TFR) is in place for the Monument Complex and restricts flights within a 10-mile radius of the fire. Road closures in the vicinity of the fire include: Forest Roads 21 and 22.

Initial attack crews have also responded to over 60 additional lightning fires, reported to the Pendleton Interagency Communication Center (PICC) over the weekend.

These fires are scattered across the forest and adjoining lands and range up to 300 acres. Most of these fires have been contained and are in mop-up stages. Additional reports of new holdover lightning fires are expected throughout the week.

Meanwhile the Calamity Complex near Seneca was reported as 90 percent contained, and mop-up was under way. Full containment was expected by 6 p.m. Monday.

That fire, southeast of Seneca, reached 2,300 acres.

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